Verturo Construction owner Joey Holand wanted to help veterans. In 2016, Holand and his wife donated a hunting trip that reunited two combat-wounded veterans. The pair had been separated after their tours of duty.
“That weekend changed me as a person,” Holand said. “It changed me on how we look at our veterans.”
Holand’s company and other contractors, in partnership with H-E-B’s Operation Appreciation and the nonprofit Operation Finally Home, are now building a new home for a Valley veteran. This veteran lost a leg in an explosion in Iraq and also suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. U.S. Marine Corporal Miguel Simental of McAllen and his family will get the keys to the home in the fall, mortgage free.
Operation Finally Home, headquartered in New Braunfels, selects qualified veterans to receive new homes at no cost. Executive Director Rusty Carroll said the organization grew from roots established by a Houston area homebuilders association. The nonprofit is one of several in the United States with similar missions.
“Since 2005, we have got over 250 projects in 30 states, either completed or in progress,” Carroll said.
Simental applied with Operation Finally Home after learning about it from another Valley veteran in a Wounded Warriors online chat group. In April, he took his wife and three daughters for what he then thought was an interview. When he arrived, he was escorted to a groundbreaking ceremony and surprised with the news he would receive the mortgage-free home.
“It was overwhelming,” Simental said. “It’s something we weren’t expecting. To me it came as a shock. My body kept shaking. It was something there’s really no words to express. I don’t really open up a lot, so it was very emotional.”
Holand said the event was a humbling experience. “He and so many others like him have sacrificed so much for our freedom and for me to live the life I have. I feel lucky to be a part of this.”
Verturo Construction serves as general contractor for the job free of charge. Holand and his partners in a development company donated the lot. The subcontractors then came on board with in-kind donations of their work. H-E-B signed on as a major contributor. The McAllen Housing Finance Corporation awarded a grant, and the city waived all permit fees. “We raised one hundred percent of the funds locally,” Holand said.
Yvonne Loflin, H-E-B senior public affairs specialist for the border region, said the grocery store chain prides itself in helping veterans. “Whatever it takes for them to live the best lives they can, that’s what we are looking to help them with.”
An H-E-B team also turned out for the surprise groundbreaking. “You got moved beyond emotions to see him and his family realizing that this is going to be their future home. It moves you to your soul,” Loflin said.
Carroll said H-E-B helps more than just with financial support. “They partner with us to stock the pantry when the home is ready.”
De la Garza, the Marine who referred Simental to Operation Finally Home, was the first recipient of a mortgage-free home in the Valley. The two men finally met when De la Garza showed up at the groundbreaking in full dress uniform as a show of support for his comrade in arms.